Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 29 October 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
Please support the new Parliament House petition from the Secularism Australia Conference team, calling for the House of Representatives to modernise its Standing Orders and replace daily prayers with a more appropriate practice. View and sign here.
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At the National Level
The Catholic church has won the right to challenge in the high court a landmark Victorian ruling forcing the church to take on greater liability for the actions of paedophile priests within its ranks. In the past two years, the Victorian courts have delivered and upheld an unprecedented ruling that the Ballarat diocese was vicariously liable for the abuse of a five-year-old child known as DP at the hands of assistant priest Father Bryan Coffey. Vicarious liability is typically used to hold employers responsible for the wrongful or negligent actions of their employees during the course of their employment – even where there is no fault on the part of the employer. The church, however, has long argued that priests like Coffey were not formal employees, allowing it to dodge claims of vicarious liability. (24 Oct 2023)
Read more at Yahoo News
Around the Country
NSW: About 250 doctors have applied to be authorised voluntary assisted dying (VAD) practitioners when NSW next month becomes the last state to allow terminally ill people to choose the timing of their death. From November 28, terminally ill adults experiencing “intolerable suffering” can apply to end their lives. The first patients will be able to take a VAD substance five days later. (23 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Age
NSW: Regional New South Wales health officials have won a court order authorising them to give a blood transfusion to a Jehovah's Witness toddler if needed in surgery. The Supreme Court has been told the girl, three, is in need of two surgical procedures. The justice said due to their religious beliefs the child's parents did not consent to the use of blood. (24 Oct 2023)
Read more at ABC News
VIC: The Boroondara Council has removed the recital of prayers from its meetings following concerns that they may represent a breach of the Victorian charter of human rights and responsibilities and that they may have been unlawful under the Local Government Act. (24 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
NSW: Thousands have signed a petition urging a Sydney Catholic school to allow same-sex couples to attend an end-of-year formal together. Students at all-girls St Ursula’s College in Kingsgrove, southern Sydney, are raising their voices against a controversial policy that prevents same-sex couples from attending their school formal together. A concerned student, Abbie Frankland, initiated a Change.org petition and labelled the policy "discriminatory". (26 Oct 2023)
Read more at news.com.au
NSW: Premier Chris Minns has sided with students at an all-girls Sydney Catholic school who are fighting to reverse a ban on bringing a same-sex partner as a date to their year 12 formal. A petition calling for the St Ursula’s College at Kingsgrove to allow same-sex couples to attend their formal has garnered more than 4300 signatures after the school allegedly told students they could not bring a female date to the event. (26 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Age
NSW: The state’s local health districts will be forced to reduce their planned spending on palliative care after the NSW Labor government cut the budget for end-of-life care by $150 million. The cuts, contained in the June budget, were last week detailed to local health districts, with one large Sydney district told its palliative care funding would be reduced by 30 per cent. (26 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Age
Commentary and Analysis
Ross Gittins: How identity politics has plunged our public schools into crisis
"When one of the most privileged and oldest private schools in Australia, The King’s School – home to the scions of the squattocracy – has to be ordered by the NSW government not to spend public money on a plunge pool at its headmaster’s residence, that’s when you know there’s something very wrong with the way federal and state governments are dividing their funding between public and private schools. It’s a system where the less government help a school needs, the more it’s given, and the more a school needs the more likely it won’t be given enough. Although the famous Gonski report of 2011 recommended that government funding of schools be based on the assessed needs of their mix of students, more than a decade later that hasn’t happened. Why not? Partly because, unlike most other English-speaking countries, Australia has allowed the mainstream Christian churches to play a big role in the provision of primary and secondary education." (25 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Age
Rodney Croome: No-one wants to co-parent with Alex Antic. Here's why
"During the marriage postal survey, Safe School sceptics claimed parents should have more of a say over how their children are raised. But since then the language of rights and freedom used by those who oppose LGBTIQA+ inclusion has evaporated and been replaced with something much darker. Take a bill just introduced by South Australian senator, Alex Antic. It bans gender affirming health care for trans and gender diverse young people, despite all credible research showing such care saves lives. Senator Antic says the bill will prevent young people regretting and reversing their gender transition. But "de-transition" is often because of the kind of social hostility and discrimination fostered by people like Senator Antic, and the number of people who de-transition is vanishingly small." (25 Oct 2023)
Read more at The Canberra Times
Events and Campaigns
The Secularism Australia Conference has launched a petition on the Parliament House website requesting the House of Representatives modernise its Standing Orders and replace daily Christian prayers with a more appropriate practice.
View and sign the petition on the APH website
Residents of NSW, there is a petition running that calls on the state parliament to run scripture (SRE) and ethics (SEE) lessons outside class time in NSW public schools.
View the petition at the NSW Parliament House website
The Australia Institute are calling on federal parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.
View the petition at The Australia Institute
The inaugural Secularism Australia Conference will be held in Sydney on 2 December 2023.
Learn more at the Secularism Australia website
The Human Rights Law Centre are running a website for those who want to support an Australian Charter of Human Rights & Freedoms.
Visit the Charter of Rights website here
A change.org petition has been started, calling for churches to lose their tax-free status and for "the religious influence of churches in Australian politics and society" to be limited. It's currently up to 30,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org
Reason Australia are encouraging Victorians to email the state government asking to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read more at the Reason Australia website
Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!
The Australian Education Union is running a campaign calling for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding. Support the campaign here.
The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.